Tuesday, July 13, 2004

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An outsourcing correction

I've taken Josh Marshall to task for essentially outsourcing the thought behind his lone outsourcing post to the Kerry campaign.

However, it now turns out that there was an error in the underlying story -- a speech that U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue gave to the Commonwealth Club about offshore outsourcing. Here's how the Associated Press initially reported the story:

Donohue acknowledged the pain for people who have lost jobs to offshoring - an estimated 250,000 a year, according to government estimates. But pockets of unemployment shouldn't lead to "anecdotal politics and policies," he said, and people affected by offshoring should "stop whining."

"One job sent overseas, if it happens to be my job, is one too many," Donohue said. "But the benefits of offshoring jobs outweighs the cost."

The Associated Press now admits it was in error:

In a story June 30 about a speech by U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue to the Commonwealth Club of California, The Associated Press erroneously reported that Donohue said people affected by offshoring should "stop whining."

According to a transcript of the speech provided by the chamber, Donohue said of offshoring, "Let's not whine."

Let me stress here that this is entirely the fault of the Associated Press; neither the Kerry campaign nor Marshall can or should be blamed for relying on the AP wire.

However, I do wonder if those in the blogopsphere who linked to this story will post the correction -- because it drastically alters the perception of what Donohue said. [Why?--ed. Because the new formulation sounds far less haughty. Iinstead of Donohue addressing others, the pronoun used is first person plural, implying that he is not placing blame.]

posted by Dan on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM


it drastically alters the perception of what Donohue said

The difference between "stop whining" and "Let's not whine" is a little shy of drastic, I think. The second formulation is less abrasive, but it still seems to imply, even if doesn't assert, that 1, people have been whining about this or at minimum he expects them to do so, and 2, they shouldn't do so.

Is there really a big deal difference between "stop whining about this", and "don't whine about this"?

posted by: frankly0 on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

Eh. I'm not claiming that Donohoe didn't say "Let's not whine." But I'd note that I've been involved in the correction/approval of transcripts of speeches before, and my sense is that people edit them with a "see, what I meant was," more than a "what I said was" attitude. Things can get cleaned up a fair bit. I'd be shocked if the chamber didn't sent him the transcript for his office to correct/approve.

posted by: SomeCallMeTim on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

In any case, in either formulation, the thing that people really react to is the word "whine", which clearly is derisive and insensitive to the experiences of people who have lost their jobs, however much "concern" Donohue may have expressed about them elsewhere in the speech. The difference in nuance between the two formulations pale by comparison to the truly obnoxious implications of the word "whine".

posted by: frankly0 on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

All references to any kind of whining, "anecdotal politics" or "pain" seem to have been completely expunged from the transcript now:


It's all been reduced to:

So, even with the economy churning out new jobs, and even if outsourced jobs are a small fraction of our overall economy, there are those that argue that one job sent overseas is one too many.

But the benefits derived from one displaced job far outweigh the costs.

posted by: gw on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

Note: The last two paragraphs of my previous post are quotes from the transcript.

posted by: gw on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

What are the long-term benefits of one displaced job vs the short-term benefits? Working for a company that does the outsourcing, we don't yet see a benefit since the skill level of the offshore people is not at the US level. While we pay them less, we have to hire more to do the same job. Is this going to pay off in the near term or not?

posted by: Ernie Oporto on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

I will post the correction speaking only for myself, Dan, but while it is less offensive it's still not too compassionate - or for that matter politically realistic. Containing social inequality is not a moral argument, though it may be fronted as one, as much as it is a question of political stability. By all accounts Marie Antionette was actually a fairly nice person. The populist French peasants however hardly were in the mood to give her and her husband a break after years of systematic poverty though.

posted by: oldman on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

So let's see, the reason for finding the second formulation less abrasive is that it uses the first person plural?

You see the problem with this is that in fact to many ears it might sound almost worse, because, on top of everything else, it sounds patronizing. Seriously, who is going to be doing the "whining" here, the head of the chamber of Commerce? His constituents? Don't you think it's pretty obvious its these "others", these nasty people complaining about their own damn jobs, who are expected to do the whining?

Please. As I said, the real problem is with the word "whine", and piling condecension on top of it is not exactly going to improve the connotations to anyone but a fool.

posted by: frankly0 on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

Gee - I wish I could write like you folks. So eloquent.
I am a carpenter and run a school for carpenters, cabinet-makers and floor-coverers. If I was to tell my fellow construction types to refrain from whining in any form, I would expect (to show my lack of education and class) a severe ass-whooping.
A job lost is a job lost. If it will benefit us in the long run Dan, then write it in words that are less pedantic and expain it to me so that I can explain it to the majority of people that don't have a clue what your point is after wandering through all the unnecessary words.
I was college educated and inhabit the construction world. When I use words that ordinary (intelligent but not as educated as you)cannot understand, I have lost my ability to explain my side of an argument.
I do understand what you are saying, so I will stop "whining" at this point.
Actually, thanks you to you and the people who comment. It is quite entertaining and the comments are very good.

posted by: Rik@work on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

“If it will benefit us in the long run Dan, then write it in words that are less pedantic and explain it to me so that I can explain it to the majority of people that don't have a clue what your point is after wandering through all the unnecessary words.”

Dan Drezner can speak for himself. I will, though, bluntly tell you the facts of life in my own words. This is an economic dogma: every economic improvement endangers someone’s job, however minutely. The more the overall economy improves---the more jobs are destroyed. For instance, the horse and buggy industry was doing very well until the the advent of the automobile. Individuals often pay a personal price during the inevitable wrenching transformation. Do you wish for me to sugarcoat everything for you? Well, don’t hold your breath. I’m not a sleazy leftist Democrat. My duty is to tell you the truth, not tell you what you might prefer to believe.

Your students will overwhelmingly likely experience the affluence their grandparents could only dream about. However, they must be ready to job hop. The skills learned today might be worthless tomorrow. That’s the price tag which must inevitably be paid. Did somebody promise you a rose garden? Well, you should punch them in the nose. They lied to you.

posted by: David Thomson on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

Ernie, it sounds like your company bought into a fad. It may have plans that will bring their offshore workers up to the proper skill level in time, however, they may end up bringing the jobs back like many other companies. They took a gamble.

posted by: aaron on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

Rik, see Gains of Trade. The protectionism sacrifices increases in overall income for a prefered distribution of income.

posted by: aaron on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

SomeCallMeTim is right. Transcripts of speeches, whether prepared in advance or after the fact, are not precisely reliable guides at the level of individual words to what a speaker actually said.

Similarly, Sen. Cornyn is being subjected to some mockery at the moment for purportedly comparing gay marriage to marrying a box turtle in a speech to the Heritage Foundation. Cornyn's press secretary has advised Andrew Sullivan that while the advance copies of the speech show the comparison, Cornyn actually skipped that paragraph in the speech. (For the record, I am no fan of Cornyn or the FMA.)

posted by: alkali on 07.13.04 at 02:50 PM [permalink]

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